Monday, November 29, 2010

Plastic surgeon sues former patients for comments made in on-line reviews

Jay Pensler, a plastic surgeon in Chicago, was unhappy with some on-line reviews of his work and is now suing three former patients for defamation. The patients, who are named in various reports of this story, apparently made scathing remarks about his care, his attitude and even his wife who apparently serves as his nurse. According to one report, the comments, recently removed from the websites Citysearch and Yelp, described the doctor as “…’dangerous,’ ‘ruthless,’ a ‘liar’ and ‘horrible.’" And the surgeon was called a “'rude jack***’ and ‘his wife … is a very rude unprofessional b****.’” Another report states that photographs of the alleged botched breast surgery were posted as well and quotes the woman as saying she now had “Frankenstein” breasts. The doctor says the photos have been altered.

One of the more interesting features of the story is that the names of what was thought to be anonymous reviewers were obtained from the two websites by subpoena.

Diligent research by the Skeptical Scalpel reveals the existence of a similar story from earlier this year in Marin County, California. A plastic surgeon named Kimberly Henry is suing former patients for posting critical reviews on the website This report mentions that a 2009 suit by a San Francisco dentist in another such case was dismissed by a California court, which cited that states anti-SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation] law, and awarded the patient $43,000.00 to be paid by the dentist for her legal fees. A law professor from UCSF said that the California law protected this type of review as long as the reviewer did not post “false facts [sic].”

A number of talking points arise:

Should a doctor ever sue his patients?
Will these suits simply invite more scrutiny of his work?
Are anonymous on-line reviews really anonymous?
Can people say anything they want on-line [except “false facts”]?
What did the monster's breasts look like or was the reference to Dr. Frankenstein's breasts? Either way, I don't recall seeing them in any of the movies.


Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Yes, I also saw only the 'PG' version of Frankenstein. Of course, a physician can sue if a pt, or anyone else, is publishing false, reckless and defamatory info. It's called libel.

Cheryl Handy said...

As a patient and blogger, I am a firm believer in honesty in blogging and that absolutely includes identity. It is just blame cowardly to make claims without stating your identity. It is really no different than cyber bullying.

Skeptical Scalpel said...


I appreciate the comment but fail to see how anonymous blogging equates to cyber bullying. Also, I note that you follow a large number of anonymous folks on Twitter. How do you reconcile that?

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